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  1. David May
  2. https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidmaystem/
  3. Education & Diversity Programs Manager
  5. American Physical Society, American Association of Physics Teachers
  1. Monica Plisch
  2. Director
  4. American Physical Society, American Association of Physics Teachers

PhysTEC: Building a Solution to the National Physics Teacher Shortage

NSF Awards: 1707990

2018 (see original presentation & discussion)


PhysTEC is the Physics Teacher Education Coalition. The mission of PhysTEC is to improve and promote the education of future physics teachers.

PhysTEC is a partnership between the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). Since 2001, PhysTEC has helped universities transform their physics teacher education programs into national models. The project is funded primarily by the National Science Foundation, and has received significant funds from the APS's 21st Century Campaign, as well as direct and in-kind support from each of its partner institutions.

The project includes two sets of institutions: PhysTEC Supported Sites and the broader Physics Teacher Education Coalition. Supported sites develop their physics teacher preparation programs into national models by implementing a set of Key Components that project leaders have identified as critical to success in physics teacher preparation. The Coalition is a national network of institutions committed to developing and promoting excellence in physics and physical science teacher preparation.

The project disseminates its results and reaches out to the physics community through publications and presentationsvideos, and a variety of conferences and workshops. To expand its reach, the project has developed collaborations with other organizations, including UTeach, the American Chemical Society, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

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Discussion from the 2018 STEM for All Video Showcase (15 posts)
  • Icon for: David May

    David May

    Lead Presenter
    Education & Diversity Programs Manager
    May 14, 2018 | 09:01 a.m.

    Hello and welcome!

    Interested in preparing highly qualified physics teachers? PhysTEC has been supporting physics teacher preparation since 2001, and has learned a great deal about the most effective ways to redesign or improve programs that certify physics teachers who have a major or minor in physics as well as a solid grounding in physics pedagogy. 

    Model programs established by PhysTEC have more than doubled their production of highly qualified physics teachers, and hundreds of institutions have joined the PhysTEC coalition. PhysTEC has already identified many core components of successful programs, and is poised to validate a model for thriving programs that applies to any institution that prepares, or intends to prepare, teachers of physics.

    You can find out more about what we've learned and where we've had an impact on our website.

    We look forward to hearing what you think of the project and what questions you might have. I'll seed the discussion with a few questions in another post.


    David May, PhysTEC program manager

  • Icon for: David May

    David May

    Lead Presenter
    Education & Diversity Programs Manager
    May 14, 2018 | 09:20 a.m.

    My initial questions for you all are these:

    What challenges are you facing in improving your physics teacher preparation program? What do you think you need to address them? Here are some broad areas to consider:

    1. Institutional commitment
    2. Collaboration and a leadership team
    3. Recruitment of potential physics teachers to your program
    4. Knowledge and skills for teaching physics
    5. Mentoring and professional support
    6. Program assessment

    These are actually areas that were identified in PhysTEC's recent study of thriving physics teacher education programs. Thriving programs (those graduating five or more physics teachers per year) appear to be strong in most of these areas, especially the first two. I'll highlight the study in a post later; for now, what areas are you most concerned with, or do you have the most experience with?

  • Icon for: Alan Peterfreund

    Alan Peterfreund

    May 14, 2018 | 02:56 p.m.

    Thanks for the video - I am interested in hearing more about recruitment (an issue you raise in your comments above).  How have the current partners succeeded with thier recruitment efforts?

  • Icon for: David May

    David May

    Lead Presenter
    Education & Diversity Programs Manager
    May 14, 2018 | 03:31 p.m.

    Hello Alan, and thanks for the question! There are many different ways sites have improved their recruitment practices; one is simply to enlarge the pool of potential teacher candidates by strengthening the physics major (in terms of numbers of majors). Another is to have "career fairs" in the physics department or education school that include a physics teaching component, or to have instructors of intro physics classes take a few minutes to discuss physics teaching as a career choice (and advertise any programs you might have). Targeting the right audiences and making a solid plan generally seem like good practices as well.

    Some resources about recruiting physics teachers can be found on this page. I would also encourage you to take a look at the "Recruitment" section of a new rubric that we've just released, the Physics Teacher Education Program Analysis Rubric (download or read about it on this page). This Rubric is based on the study of thriving programs I mentioned in an earlier comment.

    Every institution is different in terms of resources, student population, faculty interests, etc., but I hope this gives you some ideas to think about. Anything sound promising?

  • Icon for: Alan Peterfreund

    Alan Peterfreund

    May 15, 2018 | 11:15 a.m.

     The rubric is fascinating.  The issues are very similar to those facing Computer Science.

  • Icon for: Angie Kalthoff

    Angie Kalthoff

    Technology Integrationist
    May 15, 2018 | 06:26 p.m.

    One topic that comes up in conversation with preservice teachers is their class schedule. Sometimes they feel as though classes they take are not directly correlated to what they will be teaching in the future.

    On your rubric, I notice that in order to have an Exemplary Level status for Standard 2 in Leadership and Collaboration 2C-8, "Students view the physics degree and licensure requirements as a single program with one set of requirements and consistent expectations and philosophies." What is your advice for programs as they work to move towards the exemplary level of this standard of cohesiveness? 

  • Icon for: David May

    David May

    Lead Presenter
    Education & Diversity Programs Manager
    May 16, 2018 | 09:35 a.m.

    Good question, Angie. If I'm understanding you correctly, I think there are two interrelated issues going on. One is about the cohesiveness of the program itself, across different academic units at the college or university. That's what 2C-8 is about; it can be addressed to a large extent through close collaboration among the physics department, the education department that handles teacher certification, and the administrative levels above each of those departments. That collaboration is probably necessary for making the program requirements come from a single perspective; it's okay for students to learn some things from one department and others from the other department, as long as it makes sense to everyone (especially the students) why it's designed that way.


    The second issue is about coherence between the program and the student's future teaching responsibilities. That is largely the point of the rubric's Standard 4, which gets into many aspects of what preservice teachers need to know for teaching physics in K-12.


    I hope that helps! Thanks very much for your question, and feel free to write a followup.


    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Angie Kalthoff
  • Icon for: Chuck Verenna

    Chuck Verenna

    K-12 Teacher
    May 15, 2018 | 09:13 p.m.

    I'm a Chem teacher, but recall that when I went to college, we actually had one Chem teacher my year (me) and a Physics teacher my year.  I believe there was one chem teacher between myself and my teacher, who attended the same college, and I can't remember how long it was between my classmate and the previous physics teacher that was graduated.  We both benefited from our program being one in which we received a BS in our subject area and a secondary education certificate.  It was essentially a double major in terms of credits, though it was not recognized as such.  The reason for all of this background is that, having a BS in my subject and a certificate to teach has provided me with (I believe) a richer background in my subject matter that Ed majors with a concentration in a subject area do not experience.  I am glad to see a program such as PhysTEC so as to get talented scientists into the classroom and share their thorough understanding of their subject area to inspire the minds of students and get them excited about science and STEM/STEAM related areas.  Coincidentally, I became a Chem teacher because I had an incredible high school Chem teacher who inspired me to want to teach science!

  • Icon for: David May

    David May

    Lead Presenter
    Education & Diversity Programs Manager
    May 16, 2018 | 09:42 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Chuck! Yes, we believe that highly qualified physics teachers need to be prepared not only with pedagogical knowledge, but also with a solid understanding of physics. In fact, PhysTEC goes one step further by supporting the learning of physics pedagogy, the specific pedagogical knowledge and skills that are important for teaching physics. For example, knowing some of the common ways students already make sense of the physical world and how they relate to particular physics content areas, and what kinds of things a teacher might do to work with that common sense-making. I'm sure the same is true in chemistry and every other discipline.

    Again, thanks Chuck!

  • Icon for: Karthik Ramani

    Karthik Ramani

    Donald W. Feddersen Professor of Mechanical Engineering
    May 15, 2018 | 10:51 p.m.

    I can relate to the teacher preparation and physics teacher eduction. I like the large network of teachers the team has influenced. I also notice a lot of high schools have first robotics and other programs. What are the core principles of teacher preparation based on? Do they do hands on exercises - and - learn how to apply physics across types of problems? For example when we studied first robotics in many schools - we found the students did not related physics that they learnt to the design problems they were facing - they were doing by trial and error almost decoupled from the physics learnt in class. How do you ensure that teachers cooperate with other subject matter teachers like chemistry and biology - and show the connects between physics and other subjects? 

  • Icon for: David May

    David May

    Lead Presenter
    Education & Diversity Programs Manager
    May 18, 2018 | 12:07 p.m.

    Hello Karthik,

    Thank you for your question. You're right that students must learn the connections among different disciplines and not see physics (nor any physics topic) as isolated from other subjects. The PhysTEC program is strongly designed around evidence-based practices, and supports teacher training that is also based on evidence and appropriate research. This means not only physics-specific pedagogical knowledge (as I mentioned in another comment), but also teaching core skills in scientific inquiry that include how to make sense of concepts in connection with other concepts, including those that usually come up outside of physics.

    There is a significant amount of expertise in these areas around the PhysTEC national network. However, some of the resources we use can be found on this web page.

    Thanks again, Karthik. Keep the comments coming and we'll do our best to respond!

  • Icon for: Jill Marshall

    Jill Marshall

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 18, 2018 | 07:40 p.m.

    I appreciate the work of PhysTEC in increasing the number of well-prepared physics teachers. In the UTeach secondary STEM teacher preparation program at the University of Texas at Austin, one of the challenges we face is that since the termination of the "4x4" recommended plan for high school graduation, physics is no longer required for high school graduation, and not even offered in all schools. That makes it difficulty for our graduates to have a full load teaching only physics classes.  Two solutions we have worked for are composite certifications for physics and math and for physical science, math and engineering. UTeach faculty were instrumental in the creation of those options. I am wondering whether PhysTEC programs face this same challenge or whether graduates are readily able to secure positions teaching only physics.

  • Icon for: David May

    David May

    Lead Presenter
    Education & Diversity Programs Manager
    May 21, 2018 | 09:27 a.m.

     Hello Jill, thanks for the comments and question. Several of our PhysTEC sites (current and former) are also UTeach replication sites, where there's been significant synergy that goes beyond just good collaboration. In fact, UTeach's Michael Marder is on PhysTEC's National Advisory Board.

    Many of our sites (UTeach or not) have encountered the challenge you mention. Even though there is a shortage of physics teachers in about every state, it is often hard to find all-physics or mostly-physics teaching positions. Most graduates of PhysTEC programs are teaching physics, but we don't know how much.

    Some of our sites have tried similar solutions as you have (dual or combined certification with math or other subjects). I think there's been some success, but not without overcoming challenges of recruiting students to the program and building collaboration across departments (which is sometimes harder within STEM than between STEM and Education!).

    I'll see if I can find more information about our past success with this before the showcase ends later today!

    Again, thanks for your comments, Jill, and good luck to you and the rest of the UTeach team!


  • Icon for: Nancy Shapiro

    Nancy Shapiro

    Associate Vice Chancellor
    May 21, 2018 | 02:11 p.m.

    David, thanks for sharing this video.  It demonstrates that where there's a will, there's a way.  Recruiting and preparing young teachers who can be role models for high school students is one of the most important roles of a university, I think.  They share their enthusiasm and their excitement, and that's priceless.  Congratulations on this work!

  • Icon for: David May

    David May

    Lead Presenter
    Education & Diversity Programs Manager
    May 21, 2018 | 04:00 p.m.

    Nancy, thanks very much for the kind words! You make a great point about role models for students - we certainly aim to provide a broad, quality education to future physics teachers that includes the ability to inspire others. Thank you for all of your important work to provide the same to future teachers in Maryland and beyond!

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.